Fall is in the air. Leaves are starting to turn, the weather is cooling and students around the state are well into a new school year. While some embrace the new year and the daily return to the classroom, others dread it — not because they don’t want to learn or do the work required to succeed, but rather the school they are attending may not be providing them the tools they need to learn effectively.

The school could even be holding them back.

That is why more Hoosier families are choosing virtual education as a way to create their own journey to educational success. Students enrolled in virtual schools must meet all state education requirements but can do so on their own time, many at a faster pace than their peers in traditional school settings.

At one of Indiana’s several virtual public schools, students study all of the same subjects as they would at the brick and mortar public school in their neighborhood. Using a computer or their smartphone, students have the freedom to earn the same credits from home or really anywhere else in the world that has Wi-Fi.

During the last decade, we have seen millions of college graduates earn their degrees online. Many of them say if it weren’t for the flexibility online education provides, they may never have graduated.

The same is true for many of our state’s elementary, middle and high school students.

As we have learned over the years, not all students thrive in the typical classroom because of physical, social, economic and other factors.

Virtual education gives new hope to the student whose ADHD keeps him from focusing for eight straight hours a day. It provides a solution to the student who needs to work a full-time job to help support her family, and it can give students who have struggled with discipline in traditional schools another chance at acquiring the education they deserve.

Because of disciplinary issues and adverse living situations, some students who enroll at a virtual school do so at a time when they are far behind their peers. The virtual school may be the fourth or fifth school they have attended in recent years.

Virtual educators in Indiana see the needs of those students and are offering another path to success.

Indiana Virtual School just created Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy. Recently authorized by the Daleville Community School Corp., Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy will focus on reaching students who traditional schools have failed in the past, students we cannot allow to fall through the cracks of our state’s education system.

Through partnerships with organizations like county sheriffs’ departments, the Minority Engineering Program of Indianapolis and the Indiana Construction Roundtable, Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy will expose students to more role models, and more importantly, more opportunities.

The academy also will have an intense focus on ensuring opportunities for internships and industry certifications that could set students up for a successful career.

Whether a student has fallen behind or soared ahead, virtual education can be modified to fit exactly what and how a student needs to learn. Because of that, K-12 virtual education undoubtedly will continue to grow in Indiana and across the country.

Any teacher will tell you, when it comes to education one size does not fit all.

Dr. Percy Clark is superintendent of Indiana Virtual School. The opinions are the writer's.

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